Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, October 26, 2015

Some things every scrum master should say.

A scrum master should be like Gimli
As a scrum master, it is easy to get enveloped in gloom and doom.  You are removing impediments, trying to change the corporate culture and learning to work with people who think you are crazy.  Sometimes, I think that jousting with wind mills might be an easier line of work.  This week I want to talk about a few simple things you can say which will make being a scrum master a little easier.

Why Not?  

Many times a software developer will say something can’t be done.  It is your job to say, “Why not?”  Challenge people to defend why something can’t be done.  If they say it is process then ask them what the process is.  If they say they have not worked with a technology before send them to training.  If they are not getting cooperation from a product owner then it is up to you to escalate it to upper management to get that situation corrected.

More often you will get to the bottom of a deeper problem. For instance, someone said that we could not make improvements to software because the database was using outdated technology.  This spawned an entire project as upper management was alerted to the problem and decided to allow the team to fix it.  It took over ten months but now that development team is working with an up to date database.  The business is thrilled because the software is working ten times faster.  Upper management is happy because a series of customer complaints was eliminated and the developers are happy because we cleaned up a pile of technical debt.

Let’s try it out.

Software engineers love to argue.  They argue about technology.  They argue about politics and they love to argue about pop culture.  This means that most of your time with the developers is going to be spent listening and adjudicating arguments.  At this point of the day you are supposed to say, “Why don’t we try it out.”

Instead of arguing about technical issue, conduct an experiment and compare the results side by side.  We are software engineers, we should act like engineers from time to time.  Compare third party controls with each other.  Marissa Mayer when she was at Google famously ran fifty a/b tests to determine which color blue generated more click-thrus for an ad.  Microsoft is constantly testing new formats and ways to try and improve its product.  Even, Chevy is conducts testing to find out how it can improve its automobiles.

Experimentation is necessary and important as software developer.  You need to try new ways of doing things and try out new ideas.  Otherwise, you will become intellectually stagnant and become eclipsed but others who are willing to grow and develop.

What are we waiting for?!

Many people are afraid to take initiative.  The reason why is that they have been discouraged from doing so since grade school.  Too many people have been trained to ask for permission instead of doing what is right.  This type of conformity used to work but now it is an obstacle to meeting customer needs.  So when action is necessary, ask “What are we waiting for?!”

Asking this question provides a sense of urgency to the situation.  In addition, it helps the team outline obstacles and challenges early.  This way when development gets under way the team already has some mental preparation for what they need to do.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but try these phrases out and see if they help inspire your team and clear up conflict.

Until next time.